The authors propose the analysis of surface height histograms as a tool for the atomic layer deposition (ALD) growth characterization in the initial stage of the process. ALD of HfO2 on a Si(100)/SiO2 substrate was investigated in situ by ultra high vacuum atomic force microscope working in noncontact mode. The ALD cycles, made by using tetrakis-di-methyl-amido-Hf and H2O as precursors, were performed at 230 °C. After each ALD cycle, the relation between the film growth and the root mean square surface roughness was studied. Parameters equivalent to HfO2 layer thickness, coverage, and surface roughness of the substrate and deposited material can be calculated in the proposed routine.

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